Saturday, December 10, 2011

Shakespeare Engaged!

I think our event last night was a success. We had about 80 people there, counting our classmates. And everything and everybody looked good, there weren't any embarrassing "technical difficulties," and the audience seemed to really enjoy our program.

I really liked the ways we involved the audience. Professor Burton's idea to have the audience share their "Shakespeare testimonies" was a great way to kick off the evening, and a good segue into sharing the blogs. We learned that Shakespeare is relevant to anything, whether it's serving the homeless, the nesting habits of cuckoo birds or cycling in the city of Boston.

After Averill's play, during the time that the audience could ask questions of the performers and documentary filmmakers, the idea came to me to ask the audience what they thought of seeing their family and friends up there on stage doing Shakespeare. I'm glad I thought of that, because I think it was another way for the audience to share the experience and to make the engagement a two-way street. And a few commented on how surprised and impressed they were with their friends and family and the production in general. Most people probably thought, "Class project? Yay [sarcastically]." They might have felt like they were watching their 12-year-old children playing "Hot Cross Buns" in a middle school concert, with squeaky clarinets and everything. But the actors did more than just memorize a few lines, and the documentary filmmakers did more than just turn on cameras.

I was very proud of everybody's projects. I was thinking about group projects I've done in the past, and I could tell that in this Shakespeare class, everybody worked hard. It didn't seem like there was anybody who did the minimum and then get their name put on the assignment anyway. Everybody put their heart and soul into it. And it was one of those few times when a group project actually made us all friends with each other.

Everything but the music video is available online. And everything will be put up on our Engaging Shakespeare website soon. (If that link doesn't work, try this one.)

Less Matter More Art

The group also got quite a response from their artwork posted on Deviant Art, and posted their lesson plans on a site called Connexions.

Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark: An Abridged Audiobook
(There's some overlap during the first minute of the audio, so skip ahead)

Love's Labours

The World's a Stage
Although the music video isn't online yet, here's a clip from it.

Very cool stuff.


The four learning outcomes for the course were 1) to gain Shakespeare literacy, 2) to critically analyze Shakespeare, 3) to engage Shakespeare creatively and 4) to share Shakespeare.

1) With a whole course devoted to Shakespeare, the themes and methods woven among all of Shakespeare's works were more evident to me. The text became more interesting than intimidating. I still need a little help from class or from sites like Shmoop and Sparknotes. But after reading those notes I can read the original Shakespeare and appreciate the way he said it more than the way Shmoop or Sparknotes said it.

2) I think most of my critical analysis has been done vicariously through classmates, in class discussions and in our Engaging Shakespeare night. But I have tried harder to critically analyze the text than I did earlier this semester. Earlier I blogged about the word play in Love's Labours Lost, to try and look at the words and writing itself.

Maybe I haven't done very much literary analysis, but I have tried to figure out why Shakespeare did what he did, and why he chose the themes he did. Most recently I did this type of analysis with King Lear.

3) Engaging Shakespeare creatively has been the easiest for me. I try to be creative with everything I do, especially in a literature class like this that opens itself up to creativity. During this second half of the semester my creative efforts were focused more on "Engaging Shakespeare" than on reading plays, but I tried to be creative with our presentation.

Exhibit A - I designed this logo for the event:

4) Other than tweeting and Facebooking about the Engaging Shakespeare event, I failed at this. I had intentions to live tweet King Lear, but haven't done it yet. Maybe I still will sometime during finals week.

I did do a lot to share Engaging Shakespeare over the Internet. I made a Facebook group and invited any Facebook friends who are at or around BYU, and I tweeted through my account and The Daily Universe account as often as I thought I could get away with.

But I'm not sure if all of that was really affected. It would have been interesting to find out how many people came to our event because of Facebook or Twitter. My guess is that most (if not all) people found out through more personal contact, like being invited by a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/roommate/friend, etc.

It will be exciting to see the future of our Engaging Shakespeare site. As more and more people find our projects over YouTube, Vimeo or Connexions, I hope the dialogue continues.


I thoroughly enjoyed this class and it will be among my favorite memories of being a BYU student. Besides learning about Shakespeare or literature, I gained knowledge and experience that I'm sure will help me in multiple ways in the future.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Free publicity

"Engaging Shakespeare" is in The Daily Universe today!

Shakespeare: Not just for the 17th century

Of course, I used my connections with the paper. But all I did was suggest the idea to the campus desk editors. It was everyone else who decided to assign the story, write it, take photos and put it on the front page. So it's not just me commandeering the Universe. :)

Photo by Luke Hansen
Averill and Anthony look good on the front page!

At this point, we have 36 people who have RSVP'd on the Facebook event page. And most of them are members of our class. But, I did get a response from a teacher at Summit Academy in Draper who was interested in bringing her ninth and tenth graders. I hope to see them there!

And I'm sure we'll get a few more who don't RSVP on Facebook, of course. I just hope there's the perfect number of people. I sent hundreds of emails, tweeted from my account and The Daily Universe account, and we're in the newspaper, but pair that with the short notice and the fact that it takes place on a Friday night during the holiday season and finals season, and I think it will all balance out.

Photo by Luke Hansen
We're about to run through a dress rehearsal for class today. Wish us luck!


Tuesday, December 6, 2011


We have some more progress to report!

Austin has been working hard on the website, and we have something ready for people to see. It's still under construction, and we'll be adding more as the week goes on. But here it is:

Engaging Shakespeare

I also started a Facebook event and I'm trying to spread the word that way. Stop by and RSVP!

Engaging Shakespeare Facebook event

And we've got a couple more sneak peeks for you!

The music video:

And another documentary clip:

I also put together this flyer:

Then I gathered as many email addresses as I could from English departments at BYU, Utah Valley University, Provo High School and Timpview High School.

So we'll see what happens!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Progress Report on 'Engaging Shakespeare'

So I actually have some progress to report in the final project!

Austin, Professor Burton and I have come up with more details.

First of all, the name of our event will be Engaging Shakespeare. The event is about more than just showing off our talents and what we've learned about Shakespeare, it's more of a two-way thing. We're hoping for a dialogue and a foundation that can be built upon, something that will take a life of its own after this semester is over.

That's where the website will become more important. The website will be about promoting this event, but it will also be the home of our various projects and allow room for people to add to them.

We've also got details about the event itself:

Friday, Dec. 9
7 p.m.
B192 JFSB (the Education in Zion theater)

Here's what we'll be presenting that night:

- A mini-play adaptation of Shakespeare, Love's Labours, presented by Averill and her troupe of troubadours, based on Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and Love's Labours Lost.

- A documentary, Love's Labours: A Journey, showing the behind-the-scenes of Averill's mini-play, directed by Kelsie

Check out this preview!

Documentary sneak peak from Shakespeare on Vimeo.

- A music video with original lyrics! directed by Kara (Check out this blog tracking their progress)

- Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark: The Abridged Audiobook, directed by Amanda

- Less Matter, More Art, a presentation of art with lesson plans for teaching Shakespeare and art in schools, directed by Mason and Cassandra

It's going to be totally awesome.

I'll be sure to post about our website once it's up, and blog, tweet and Facebook about it like crazy. But until then, I'll just publicize from here:

Come to Engaging Shakespeare! Next Friday night! Take a break from studying for finals and enjoy Shakespeare and/or student-made artwork! Tell all your friends!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Long time no blog

Hey Shakespeare fans,

It's literally been 11 days since I last updated ye olde Shakespeare blog. I don't really have a good excuse, other than that I've been busier that normal. But I finally turned in my 20-page paper for my political science class, and I got through today's crazy day at The Daily Universe ... so I'm ready to talk Shakespeare.

Since my last foray into Shakespeare and social media, not a whole lot has happened. No one responded to any of my tweets. I did get Janet Somerville to follow me on both her personal Twitter account and her literature teacher account. Unfortunately, I haven't tweeted about Shakespeare since! So I've probably disappointed her, haha.

My new plan is to "live tweet" while I continue reading King Lear. My live blogging for Julius Caesar was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. I'm hoping that live tweeting will be less effort and yet have more of an audience. I'll just be sure to add #Shakespeare and #KingLear to all my tweets, and then anyone who happens to be looking for Shakespeare and King Lear tweets will find mine. There's a smaller chance that someone would come across my blog.

So, we'll see how it goes.

Most of my energy for this Shakespeare class lately has been the final project. Austin and I have been assigned to get the word out about all the other final projects, and put together an event to show them off. It's been fun to collaborate and get ideas. Austin will design a website that will preview everybody's projects. And we're planning on a "Shakespeare night" on Friday, December 9. You should all come! Mark your calendars!

Maybe you can help me with something.

What should we call this event? I've been calling it "Shakespeare night" or "the event" in my head, but we should come up with something catchier. A lot of our class has been focused on blogging and digital social media, and that's something we would be showing off for the event. So maybe "Digital Shakespeare"? Or "Cyber Shakespeare"? ("Cyber Shakespeare" would be better, with the alliteration and all.) And I could draw a logo of a cool, cartoon Shakespeare with a smart phone and an iPad or something like that. What do you think? Or what other ideas can you think of?

Monday, November 7, 2011

King Lear and the Twitter

In going over my midterm progress with Professor Burton last week, he challenged me to broadcast my blog and my views on Shakespeare out into the real cyber world. A blog might be considered social media, but usually it's just a one-sided conversation unless people are brought to it. A blog is like a tree that falls in the forest and doesn't make a sound unless someone is there to hear it.

So I'm trying to look for Twitter conversations about #KingLear to jump into. My plan for now is to see what conversations are already going on, and see if I can add to them and also link to my blog. We'll see how it works.

Here's what I've got so far:

1) I found someone named @NaadiShirodkar who compared herself to Cordelia:

It looks like she wasn't really talking about Shakespeare, but she must be at least familiar enough with King Lear to have Cordelia pop into her mind when she felt like expressing some personal frustration unrelated to Shakespeare. Interesting. And I wonder what she'll think of my blog post if she reads it. Will it help her feel better about being a "good character" and knowing that they win out in the end?

2) A literature teacher posed a question that a lot of people responded to. So I gave an answer as well.

You can read other responses to @TeenBoyLitCrit's question by clicking here.

3) I saw a hashtag going around for #SixWordShakespeare or #6WordShakespeare. Some of them are pretty funny (although beware of non-BYU-appropriate language). I did my best to add to the conversation with a link to my blog post.

So, we'll see if the Twitterverse answers me.

Here are some other funny or interesting tweets I saw about King Lear.

1) This is from that same literature teacher who tweets for @TeenBoyLitCrit:

2) Here are couple of #SixWordShakespeare tweets, one funny and one interesting:

3) And somebody tweeted a link to some King Lear-related comics. They're only sorta funny, but Anthony especially might get a kick out of the the one titled "Cameo."

Was blind, but now, I see

The figurative meaning of "sight" and "vision" in King Lear is an obvious message that Shakespeare wants to get across. But I still wanted to share something I thought was cool about it anyway.

Lear: Out of my sight!
Earl of Kent: See better, Lear, and let me still remain
The true blank of thine eye.

I noticed the juxtaposition of these two lines, how King Lear is commanding Kent to do something and Kent is commanding King Lear to do the exact opposite. It's easier to see the "command" if you understand a Spanish translation:

Lear: Sal afuera de mi vista!

Conde de Kent: Vea mejor, Lear, y déjeme que yo siga como el marco verdadero de su ojo.

The words in bold are in Spanish command form.

So far, I don't see Kent as having an independent streak and wanting to rile up the king, like Paulina in The Winter's Tale. Kent seems like the kind of guy where if he is provoked, then something must be really wrong.

Beyond the actual action of the play, I think it's easy to see Kent as an embodiment of the voice of reason. Therefore, what King Lear is actually doing is telling reason to leave, and Kent is telling the king to use reason, and let it continue to be his primary focus.

How many times do we have reason staring us right in the face and yet we find a way to avoid it or ignore it? I can think of a few times when I have been guilty of it as well as family members of mine.

Another embodiment of reason is Cordelia. Did you notice that she doesn't do much to defend herself after King Lear lashes out at her? All she does is explain to the King of France what her father has done. I think it must be because, as the voice of reason, Cordelia knows reason will win out in the end (although, as we readers know, it wins out tragically).

Why do you think Shakespeare keeps Cordelia silent after her father's berating and banishing?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Here we are, halfway done with the semester, which means it's time to look back on a half-semester with Shakespeare.

A. Learning Outcomes

1. How have I gained Shakespeare literacy?

Each scene I read of Shakespeare is a little easier to understand. More and more I can just read the original text, and for the times that I am lost I have found that Shmoop's summaries work well as a modern translation. And often if I read how Shmoop says it and then read how Shakespeare said it, everything clicks and becomes clear to me.

2. How have I analyzed Shakespeare critically?

I think most of my analysis has come from either class discussion or the live performances. I don't know if most of what I do on this blog counts as analysis. I talk about themes and morals that Shakespeare presents, but I probably don't really analyze his writing. But I do participate in class, and I come up with lots of ideas for analyzing the live plays and their connections to the text.

After The Winter's Tale
After The Tempest

3. How have I engaged Shakespeare creatively?

I think through this blog I have found ways to to connect Shakespeare with more commonplace yet still meaningful ideas. (I think this has helped a little with the Shakespeare literacy as well.) I find ways to have fun with Shakespeare rather than just read or watch it. I have an objective in mind, and it helps me have some fun with the play and also pay more attention to what I'm reading.

Here are some examples:

Live blogging Julius Caesar
Looking for word play in Love's Labour's Lost

4. How have I shared Shakespeare meaningfully?

I think this blog has been my main vehicle for sharing my learning process. I don't just blog for blogging's sake, but I imagine an actual audience I'm communicating with whenever I am writing. For the most part, it seems that audience has only been Professor Burton and my classmates. But my wife reads it, or at least claims to (Hi, Babe! :) ) And occasionally when I am either especially proud of a blog post or I think my friends outside of ENGL 232 would be interested, I share a link on Facebook or Twitter.

Here are some that I've tweeted or posted on Facebook:

El Guillermo Shakespeare
'They seemed unto him but a few days'
George Washington the Zombie Killer

B. Self-directed learning

1. What have I done that demonstrates I have taken charge of my own learning about Shakespeare?

Everything about this blog is me taking charge of Shakespeare. This blog is very much a stream-of-consciousness outlet, where I get to write about what Shakespeare makes me think of and what interests me. I think browsing this blog might be a way to show how my brain works, or at least how my brain handles literature.

A few such personalized posts:

I'm All Ears
Clownin' Around

2. How am I doing at planning my learning, documenting my learning, scheduling and carrying out learning activities, and measuring my learning?

The blogging schedule has really helped me. Although I've been late a couple of times, knowing that I need to have a new blog post every Monday and Wednesday has helped me maintain my semester with Shakespeare. It also helps me to document the whole learning process, instead of just blogging after I finish a play.

I admit that for a lot of my blogging for Julius Caesar, my individual play, I did things last minute. I know I would have gotten more out of it, especially the global sharing assignment, if I had started earlier.

C. Collaborative and Social Learning

1. Which students have aided me the most in my own learning (through help inside or outside of class, through their comments on my blog, or through their blogging, etc.)?

My blogging group has been great. Kelsie, Christa, Lauren, Matt and Anthony have all added so much to my knowledge and appreciation for Shakespeare. We've all gotten the hang of this blogging thing and I think all of us have come up with some awesome stuff. Kelsie provides more of the deep insights, Christa more of the entertaining yet meaningful rants, Lauren the fun, "whaddaya know" posts, Anthony with a sincere desire to understand this area that he admits he is unfamiliar with and Matt has been really good at learning from and responding to all of us. We're a great team. We should be made into a sitcom.

I also enjoyed reading Julius Caesar with Averill. She and I had very different approaches to reading the play, but we were interested enough in each other's interpretations to have some good back-and-forth between our blogs, and in real life too. It was fun having her in the carpool on our way to see The Tempest on Saturday.

Speaking of which, my other carpoolmates for both field trips have been great for bouncing around ideas and thinking of any and every observation we made of the plays. Averill, Chris and Meg contributed especially to the car ride discussion.

2. How is working within the assigned learning groups working? How could this be improved?

I think it works really well, especially compared to the usual working with groups in a classroom. I think in most of my BYU experience, students like to do things on their own and despise group projects. Maybe because we all at least care enough about Shakespeare to take a class, or because literature is just fun and easy to talk about, or because of the added blogging element - I don't know, but for some reason we actually look forward to talking to each other in class.

The one thing that would add more to the discussion would be to have some sort of documentation. We have some really great discussions, but it seems like it all vanishes when class is over, unless one of us happens to remember it for a blog post. I don't think I would want to appoint a secretary to take minutes, but maybe there would be some way to preserve our great ideas.

3. How am I involving others (outside of my group or even our class) in my learning? Or, how am I applying my learning about Shakespeare in social settings beyond class?

This is one area that I am definitely subpar in. Other than the occasional Facebook post or conversation with my wife about my day at school, I haven't shared my Shakespeare experience very much outside of class. And I fulfilled the global sharing requirement, but without spending much time on it and without doing anything special, really. I still haven't seen much response from those efforts, but those efforts weren't very impressive to begin with.

D. Looking Ahead

1. State what your plans are for meeting learning outcomes or personal learning plans that are incomplete. This can include discussion of the final project.

For the future, I want to do better to start assignments earlier so that I can spend more time with them, instead of waiting until just before the deadline and then checking it off my list. Other than that, this class is going well and I am getting more out of it than probably any other class I've ever had.

As for the final project, back when I imagined each of us doing a project according to our personal interests, I was thinking of something that would combine Shakespeare with politics (hence the name of this blog). I thought of looking for instances in which U.S. presidents have quoted Shakespeare in a political speech, or thinking of politicians who would make up cast for some Shakespeare play ...

... Like this infographic from Newsweek that pitted Star Wars/the Bush administration against Star Trek/the Obama administration.

But now that the final projects seem to be more collective, I'm not so sure. All the ideas brought up in class sounded good to me. It would be fun to join Averill's project, and it would also be fun to do more stuff online. I'm pretty much open to anything.

Sunday, October 30, 2011


On Saturday our class went on a second field trip, this time to see The Tempest by the Pioneer Theater Company.

I had a lot of thoughts and reactions to the play, but they're not very cohesive. So I'll just write some down and see how it goes.

The set was very impressive. In a way, it was simple, in that it was plain, wooden platforms. But, the platforms went three stories. And, in what I thought was a great addition to Shakespeare's play, the play began with Prospero and Ariel adding more to the set, as if they were in the workshop getting ready to make a big storm. With theater magic, Prospero lowered lanterns and a windmill, and a few other whimsical contraptions.

Did anyone notice Miranda's "tomboy" tendencies? I noticed at one point in the play she wasn't, as my dad would tell my sisters when they were younger, "sitting like a lady." And there was also the time when she playfully slugged Ferdinand. And, of course, it makes sense that she would act like a tomboy! She's spent the last 12 years as the only human female on the island. I thought that was a nice idea for playing the part of Miranda.

Another thing about Miranda I noticed was that the very first time Caliban showed up in a scene, Miranda began to gather up her skirts, as if she was preparing to make a run for it. Did anyone else notice that? I thought that was another cool idea, that she would just bring her guard up whenever Caliban was around, almost as if by instinct.

Our carpool group stayed after the play for the Q&A session with the actors. And we noticed how similar Prospero and Ariel were to the actors who played them. We could tell that Julia Motyka, who played Ariel, had a background in dance before she said it out loud. Because not only did she move her hands a lot while she talked, but her hands flowed. She said she got married not too long ago, and on her honeymoon in Africa she noticed the way that birds moved, and that became her inspiration for how Ariel would move. And Craig Wroe, who played Prospero, seemed sort of unapproachable in the way that he talked and answered questions, maybe a little arrogant. I know Chris in particular had a question to ask, but decided against it.

I noticed in the program a message from the art director, talking about why he loved The Tempest and what it meant to him. He also mentioned that this was his last play, so I wanted to ask him about the link between Shakespeare using this play as a farewell and himself bidding adieu with this play. But, unfortunately, he wasn't there for the Q&A.

I also would have liked to ask Paul Kiernan, who played Caliban, where he got his inspiration. If Ariel was based on birds, what animals was Caliban based on? But he didn't come out on stage for the Q&A either. Probably because of all the make up he had to take off. (To me, he looked like Shrek with dreadlocks.)

Well, those are a few observations to start out with. I look forward to reading the other blogs in my class* and learning what they thought of the play.

*Look at the links on the right side of the page.

Friday, October 28, 2011

On the Intrawebs, Part #2

When I used Ice Rocket to search for tweets about Julius Caesar, I found some breaking news.

Eddie George, the Tennessee Titans running back who retired in 2004, will be playing Julius Caesar in an upcoming performance in Nashville.

Here's the story: Eddie George to Play Julius Caesar in Nashville Shakespeare Festival Production

That got me to thinking: what other athletes would make up an all-star athlete cast?

I immediately tweeted this:

What other ideas do you have for athletes in Julius Caesar?

On the Intrawebs, Part #1

To fulfill the "sharing globally" requirement, I didn't have much rhyme or reason in the online interactions I had, but I found some interesting stuff.

With Ice Rocket, I found a blog by a woman by the name of Roberta Rood. All I could find out about her was that she used to work in a library, and she loves reading and England. But she wrote a review for a biography on, of all people, James Garfield. In case you don't know - and I wouldn't blame you if you didn't - he was the 20th president of the United States, in the year 1881. A brief look at his Wikipedia page brings up some interesting things: he cleaned up corruption in the postal system, and he appointed African Americans to some high posts in governments.

He is also one of the few presidents who was actually assassinated. He was killed by Charles Giteau, a former government employee who was under the delusion that President Garfield had denied him a post in the U.S. embassy in Paris.

Roberta Rood was especially impressed with President Garfield's reluctance to be president. He once said, "This honor comes to me unsought. I have never had the Presidential fever; not even for a day." And yet, he answered the call to serve and ultimately died for it. Rood ended her review of President Garfield's biography with these lines from Julius Caesar:

"His life was gentle; and the elements
So mix’d in him that Nature might stand up
And say to all the world, This was a man!"

I didn't know all this about James Garfield before. But it reminded me of how I compared Brutus to George Washington. So, I asked her how Garfield and Washington compared to each other. (I'm still waiting for a response.)

El Guillermo Shakespeare

For my "local sharing" requirement, I talked about Julius Caesar with my sister-in-law, Nadia. She is from Lima, Peru, so every once in a while I practice my quickly fading Spanish with her. I thought for this assignment, I'd try something different by trying to discuss Shakespeare, the greatest writer in the English language, in Spanish.

Me, Nadia and my little brother Evan. (Nadia married my other brother, Trent.)

I wondered if students in Peru learned about Shakespeare, or if he was only considered essential to English-speaking schools. Nadia told me that Shakespeare was introduced as the vehicle for teaching plays as one form of language arts. They read Romeo and Juliet, and learned the facts of Shakespeare's life, like when he lived and died.

Then she came to BYU and majored in English. She wanted to avoid taking a Shakespeare class, but a professor convinced her to take it. And she said she really enjoyed it. She read Hamlet, The Tempest and Othello. And she said she really liked Othello.

So then I told Nadia the basic outline of Julius Caesar. Here's a translation of how I summed it up: "Caesar is gaining a lot of power. And one of his enemies, Cassius, wanted to kill him, and he convinced his friend Brutus to kill him. Brutus really thought he was doing the right thing, because by killing Caesar he was protecting Rome. But Cassius really just wanted power. Another friend of Caesar's, Mark Antony, fought on Caesar's side against Brutus and Cassius in a civil war. But Mark Antony just wanted power too. So Brutus was the only one not interested in power, and yet he was the one who killed Caesar."

It was while I gave her that simple plotline that I realized the irony of Brutus killing Caesar.

Something else I brought up with Nadia was that Julius Caesar is known for being a simple play, without anything about sex, which is why it's often read in high schools. And because it's so simple, it might be an easy one for her to try on her own. Not that she needs remedial English - she not only majored in English, she plans on being a novelist.

Maybe she'll be the next William Guillermo Guillermina Shakespeare, who knows?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Figment of Imagination

Did anyone feel like The Tempest ended too quickly?

I think I would have liked to actually see Ferdinand and Miranda get married, or Ariel be freed, or the comeuppance of Caliban, Stephano and Trinculo, or Prospero reinstated as Duke of Milan. But Shakespeare leaves the play open-ended.

Of course, I thought of Act V, Scene II of The Winters Tale, when Shakespeare portrays the cathartic family reunion with a conversation among witnesses, instead of the actual reunion. When I blogged about it, I thought maybe the purpose was to show off Shakespeare's descriptive writing skills, and let the audience imagine what that reunion must have been like.

Is that what Shakespeare is doing here with The Tempest? I think so, but there might be another element to it. I think it plays into the mystique and fantasy of Prospero's island. The whole play takes place on the island, and magic and supernatural powers are in every scene. It makes the whole play seem like a dream sequence.

What if it's all a dream, and Prospero wakes up and he's still on the island and still not the Duke of Milan?

Monday, October 24, 2011

'They seemed unto him but a few days'

What do you guys think of Ferdinand doing all this work for Miranda?

True, a couple who instantly falls in love with each other and pledges to marry one another is a little ridiculous in reality. Sure, dating before engagement is famously brief at BYU. But I think most couples at least know each other's names before they get engaged. (I could be wrong.)

But setting that aside, is Ferdinand compounding the insanity by doing all this senseless work for the one he loves?

I don't think so.

I've been happily married for over two years. And I don't hesitate to say that I would have stacked a thousand logs or a million logs if that's what it took to marry Erin.

A big question on BYU campus is, "Is he/she the 'one'? How do I know?" It's the most important decision of our lives,* and it can be a hard one. But I think one way to know if he/she is "the one" is by how much you are willing to sacrifice. To have a successful marriage, you have to be able to sacrifice everything.

I was lucky to not have to sacrifice too much in order to marry Erin. But being in love with her did affect many decisions I made. She was one of the reasons I changed my career path and decided not to keep trying to get into the BYU animation program. I probably would have switched to communications anyway, but I would have been more willing to take low-pay, high-hours jobs at little newspapers all over the country to work my way up the career ladder. Now, I want to skip all that and go to law school, which I hope will lead to less transitory work. I also had dreams of doing all kinds of travel, like every college student who wants to backpack through Europe or South America. I was lucky enough to travel to Mexico for my honeymoon with Erin, and go to New York City with her and our daughter for my summer internship. But much more exotic travel than that would be way too impractical and expensive now.

Erin and me at Chichen Itza pyramids in Mexico
Erin and me on top of the Empire State Building

I also gave up R-rated movies. I hadn't really made my mind up about whether I was against watching R-rated movies, but after meeting with Erin I decided not to watch any more from that point on.

Erin was telling me about a conversation she had with some friends who talked about how much time their husbands spent playing video games. In one case, a woman said while she was dating her future husband, if she had told him "You have to stop playing so many video games," it would have been a deal-breaker.

That's just sad to me. I just can't imagine liking video games, or anything, that much that it would prevent me from marrying Erin. Just thinking of the words, "Sorry, but I have to have my video games," and saying them out loud, I would listen to myself and realize how dumb it all sounds.

I know our culture often portrays marriage as a drag, and a wife as a ball and chain brandishing a whip. But really, it's like what Neal A. Maxwell said about the kingdom of God: "If you have not chosen the kingdom of God first, it will in the end make no difference what you have chosen instead." I think the same holds true for marriage. If you don't choose marriage, and to be totally devoted to it, then it won't matter if you chose convenience or idleness instead.

*The relevant quote is in the last paragraph of Gordon B. Hinckley's talk.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Abraham Lincoln and a Grizzly bear

Shakespeare exhibited his timelessness with by writing a play that based on events from 1,643 years earlier that was just as relevant in his day. By the same token, here we are 412 years later still learning and analyzing the play.

I believe the reason why Julius Caesar has stood the test of time is because wherever there is politics, there is ambition, betrayal, rebellion, conflict, and other traits less than virtuous that are revealed. Since the moment a person was deemed more powerful than another, that power has been envied and lusted after by others.

Painting by Paul Peter Rubens
This human characteristic can be traced as far back as Cain and Abel. Abel was not a political figure, but Cain was jealous of Abel's favorable standing with God and God's perceived preference. He took matters into his own hands in an attempt to gain power. Since then, the dirty side of politics has only gotten dirtier.

The events in Julius Caesar are actually pretty close to history. What the play didn't dwell on, however, was the turmoil Rome was reeling from before the play opens. It was on Caesar's watch, essentially, when Rome's republic fell apart and faded into an empire. Caesar had a few impressive military conquests on his résumé, which led to his popularity. But some of those conquests were in direct violation with the Roman Senate's wishes. And the one referenced in Shakespeare's play, against Pompey, was against a former close friend of Caesar's. In fact, Pompey was one of the members of Rome's first triumvirate. With Caesar. (,

In Shakespeare's time, England was going through its own turmoil. Julius Caesar was written in 1599, about 50 years before the English Civil War. But already, the war drums were beating. The Elizabethan era dealt with clashes among England's House of Commons and aristocrats and royalty. England was shifting from a monarchy to a parliament, as Rome was shifting from a republic to an empire.

Of course, today, political intrigue continues. It may be less bloody, especially in the more stable democracies. But that doesn't mean the end of controversy and upheaval.

Last week, I gave you George Washington killing zombies. Now, here's Abraham Lincoln with a machine gun riding a bear. Don't overthink it.

In my live blogging and blogging between reading acts of Julius Caesar, I found a lot of connections between the play and American history and politics. What fits best with this analysis though is the American Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. In the American case, it wasn't so much a war over two types of government as much as two types of culture and society (which, come to think of it, might be more precarious). It's hard to imagine now, but the American experiment came very close to failing. Lincoln's murder was not committed by someone merely insane, as was William McKinley's or the near-miss against Ronald Reagan. John Wilkes Booth was clearly motivated by politics. He and his co-conspirators really thought that with Lincoln gone, more things would go their way and the South could stay in power.

So what does this mean for us in 2011? Are the days of blood at the hands of politicians over? We don't have to go back too far to know the answer is a resounding no. Just this year, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was almost killed. And although Jared Loughner wasn't necessarily trying to usurp power, he was definitely motivated by politics. This tragedy hit close to home for me. And it shows that the world is still a dangerous place. It was in Caesar's day, Shakespeare's day, Lincoln's day, and our day.

Like our class discussed with Hamlet, what makes Shakespeare so special is his understanding of human frailties. His plays resonate because he touched on the natural man, something that transcends centuries and civilizations.

That's one of the many lessons I gained from Julius Caesar. As long as politics exist, people will do whatever it takes to gain power.


To briefly analyze the movie Julius Caesar (since I said so much about it last week):

I don't think the 1953 movie purposefully integrated anything extra in a political sense. I felt like it presented the text as is, and didn't fit in references to contemporary politics. Maybe it's because it came out during the Nifty Fifties, when things were peachy and keen and swell. The U.S. had just fought "The Good War," and all was right in the world.

What I did notice was the backdrop of the Roman Empire in all its grandiose ornateness and sophistry. I think that was probably the main selling point of the movie, was Shakespearean elegance surrounded by an epic set, like The Ten Commandments. It was very small-scale compared to The Ten Commandments, but it plays into Hollywood's fascination with Rome. (The other main selling point was Marlon Brando.)


As far as connecting Julius Caesar to my personal interests, I think I've done plenty of that already. It's probably best summed up here, but if you dare read my whole process, click here.


And I had a lot of fun going back and forth with Averill about Julius Caesar. She started out with a goal to read the play with a historical perspective, but ended with a religious one that I thought was very interesting and valuable. You can read her posts and my comments here:

History is a thing of the past

Et tu, Brute?

Marlon Brando = Stud

Caesar and Christianity

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated

I thought it was interesting to compare Alonso and Fernando with Leontes and Paulina, from The Winter's Tale.

When Alonso and his men wash up on shore, Fernando assures his king that the prince Ferdinand is still alive somewhere:

"Francisco: Sir, he may live:
I saw him beat the surges under him,
And ride upon their backs; he trod the water,
Whose enmity he flung aside, and breasted
The surge most swoln that met him; his bold head
'Bove the contentious waves he kept, and oar'd
Himself with his good arms in lusty stroke
To the shore, that o'er his wave-worn basis bow'd,
As stooping to relieve him: I not doubt
He came alive to land."

While Francisco is trying to keep Alonso's hopes up, Paulina finds every opportunity she can to remind Leontes that Hermione is dead and that it's his fault:

"Paulina: This news is mortal to the queen: look down
And see what death is doing. ...
but the last,—O lords,
When I have said, cry 'woe!' the queen, the queen,
The sweet'st, dear'st creature's dead,
and vengeance for't
Not dropp'd down yet. ...
I say she's dead; I'll swear't. If word nor oath
Prevail not, go and see ..."

What's funny is that in both cases, the character who is presumably dead is actually still alive.

We've spent time in class talking about Paulina's motivation in reminding Leontes that his queen is dead. But why is Fernando reassuring King Alonso that Ferdinand is alive? Is it simply a general optimism? Or is there some other motive, like Paulina had?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bring me that horizon

So for now I'm moving on to the next assignment in my Shakespeare class: The Tempest.

I don't know anything about The Tempest, other than I remember seeing the "Wishbone" episode way back when. ("Wishbone." Man, what a great show that was.)

Here's something cool that I found in the first scene:

"Boatswain: Do you not hear him? You mar our labour; keep your
cabins: you do assist the storm.

Gonzalo: Nay, good, be patient.

Boatswain: When the sea is."

I like the boatswain talking about the sea as if it's a real person, as if the sea could be patient or could use some assistance in its storm. It seems like that's how a real sailor would talk, especially one in Shakespeare's day who was probably more superstitious and more likely to believe in Poseidon, Neptune, etc.

And I also thought it was interesting that, even though everyone on the ship thinks they're going to die, the royalty still apparently thinks there's time for complaining to the sailors. I think it's a sign of the "divaness" of the upper class, that in the middle of a deadly storm they feel so inclined to clash with the "blue collar crowd." Seems to me like "straightening deck chairs on the Titanic."


Now, on to Act I Scene II: What do all these people have in common?

Luke Skywalker

Harry Potter

Mia Thermopolis from The Princess Diaries

Woody from Toy Story 2

Perdita from The Winter's Tale

Miranda from The Tempest

That's right - they all had secret identities and destinies that are revealed to them in a major plot point of their stories.

Why do you think that element is used so often? Is it because we all have that wish? To someday miraculously find out we are something more than we thought? That we "smack of something greater than ourselves"?


When Prospero said that Caliban was "A freckled whelp hag-born—not honour'd with a human shape," I thought, "Well, then what does he look like?" Click here for the ideas some people have come up with.

A lot of them remind me of Gollum, which makes sense, because Caliban does seem like quite the contemptible little creature.


The Tempest will be our next field trip, this time to Salt Lake City. I wonder how they're going to show the storm in the first scene...I'm guessing it will probably be like this:

...just kidding.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

According to plan

When reviewing my learning plan and how well I followed it, this is how I feel: a shoulder shrug with a "Meh..."
I've had a lot of fun with this intense look at Julius Caesar. But at the same time I was kind of frustrated with it. First off, I finished reading the play two days later than I was supposed to. And I started reading it the day it was due. And I watched a movie version before reading the play, which wasn't what I had in mind.

But, let's look at how closely I met the goals outlined in my original learning plan for Julius Caesar:

1) I did in fact post on the blog immediately after reading each act. Yes, it eneded up being all five acts within two days, but I did follow through on that.

2) I definitely focused on writing more on connections between Julius Caesar and politics. Instead of just writing about the first thing that came to mind, which was usually pop culture (does that mean I watch too much TV?), I specifically looked for themes in the play that had real-life parallels. And although it was some extra work, it was a lot of fun. I was able to relate Julius Caesar to the Lincoln assassination, Chris Christie, the war in Iraq, the Bush Doctrine, Gerald Ford and his pardoning of Richard Nixon, George Washington, Newt Gingrich and Rahm Emanuel, to name a few. Cool, huh?

3) I did comment on Averill's blog, but not as much as I would have liked to. I'll be sure to keep up the communication and discussion with her as she and I both delve into Julius Caesar more to meet all the requirements of this assignment. (I think part of it is that Averill posted three times about Julius Caesar, and I posted 20 times. So, definitely one-sided. But more on that later.)

4) I didn't quite meet the objectives on this one, because I had hoped to watch at least two Hollywood versions of Julius Caesar, and I only saw one. Again, I ran out of time. But I think I'll still try to see the two Charlton Heston versions, if nothing else I'll do it just for fun.

Some additional comments:

- I thought it might be a cool idea to "live blog" the movie. But it was a lot of work. And it meant I missed a lot of the movie. At first, I was pausing the movie while I blogged, but I was on a tight deadline so I ended up letting the movie continue while I typed. So that was one downside. Also, I don't know if anyone's really going to read all 13 posts, and they're certainly not all equal in interest. If I were to do it again, I might just do what Averill did and do one post to talk about how cool the movie was.

- Probably the main reason why some of this process was frustrating was simply because I had so much schoolwork in general. I definitely enjoyed reading, watching and blogging about Julius Caesar. But because I enjoyed it so much, I think I was overachieving, which only added to the general stress over other homework I had to work on. That's one of my faults (though sometimes it's a strength) - if I say I'm going to blog after each act of the play and live blog the movie, then, by golly, I'm gonna do it! Even if it kills me. Or, at least makes me stay up until 2 a.m. multiple times. : /

In general, I very much enjoyed this assignment and enjoyed Julius Caesar. I just maybe would have handled it a little differently if I could do it over again.


1) So the way Cassius and Tintinius died is parallel to the end of Romeo and Juliet. Someone kills him or herself because he/she thinks the other person died.

There sure is a lot of suicide in Shakespeare's plays. Is it just because it's dramatic? Or was Shakespeare purposefully promoting the idea that suicide was a kind of "release" and "escape" from this terrible, mortal world we live in?

Just to bring in the Restored Gospel a little bit - I'm sure glad to have the understanding of suicide that I have, and an understanding of its consequences. No matter how bad things get, things are never bad enough to commit suicide. I know I shouldn't judge those who have committed suicide, that's not my job. But I do know that it is not a favorable "escape" from this mortal life. (That's what the Atonement is for.)

2) And is Cassius really a hero? It seems to me he's been treacherous and a ne'er-do-well this whole play. Is it because he was the one who got the ball rolling on assassinating Caesar? Or are Brutus and others talking about a past life that takes place for this play opens? Or is it just because people say nice things about others after they die?

"Brutus: Are yet two Romans living such as these?
The last of all the Romans, fare thee well!
It is impossible that ever Rome
Should breed thy fellow. Friends, I owe more tears
To this dead man than you shall see me pay.
I shall find time, Cassius, I shall find time."

3) When Brutus finds out that so many people have killed themselves, he exclaims, "Julius Caesar, thou art mighty yet!" But, like I said earlier, was that really Caesar's ghost? Or just Brutus' evil side? Is it really Brutus who started all this?

4) I thought the finalizing couplet was interesting:

"So call the field to rest; and let's away,
To part the glories of this happy day." 

Is it really a happy day? I guess it's happy because the war is over. But is there more to it than that? Octavius is probably happy to accomplish revenge against Caesar's murderers. But based on his last words for Brutus, I'm not sure if Mark Antony feels that same way. Is he happy for Brutus in the same way we are sometimes happy that those who have passed away are resting from their labors and reunited with loved ones?

The Intergalactic Edition

1) As Mark Antony goes over his war plans with Octavius and Lepidus, he finds a chance to talk about Lepidus behind his back:

"Octavius: You may do your will;
But he's a tried and valiant soldier.

Mark Antony: So is my horse, Octavius..."

He sees Lepidus as just the sidekick or henchman, a beast of burden who can do their bidding. He's like The Clown in The Winters Tale. Check out this post to read more about the henchman/sidekick/doofus character.

2) Even though it comes out that Brutus is just in a bad mood because Portia has committed suicide back in Rome, I think he was right to chastise Cassius for supporting bribery. I agree that, if the message they want Romans to understand is that they were acting out of honor when they killed Caesar, then they have to show honor in every aspect. By allowing bribes, Cassius compromises that honor and undermines their mission. He's just another corrupt assassin if he exhibits any major moral failings.

I think nowadays, what might seem like "undermining a mission" is just portrayed as irony. Like Newt Gingrich calling for Bill Clinton's impeachment back in the '90s, when he himself was having an extramarital affair and ended up divorcing his wife and marrying his mistress. Was Gingrich really one to talk? Just like is Cassius really one to talk about honor and preserving Rome's dignity?

3) So Mark Antony is threatening to kill senators now? Is that really a good idea? Is it because all the senators are on Cassius' and Brutus' side? Or maybe he just thinks they're on Cassius' and Brutus' side?

Either way, it seems like Mark Antony is going on a superfluous rampage. I think he is a little power hungry.

Do any of you think of the battle in the Galactic Senate? Or is that just me?

4) Interesting that the ghost of Caesar introduces himself as "Brutus' evil spirit." So is it really Caesar coming back with a message for Brutus? Or is it just a vision and representation of Brutus' dark side?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The unkindest cut

1) Here's more of Caesar's possible ambition:

"Thy brother by decree is banished:
If thou dost bend and pray and fawn for him,
I spurn thee like a cur out of my way.
Know, Caesar doth not wrong, nor without cause
Will he be satisfied. ...
I am constant as the northern star,
Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality
There is no fellow in the firmament.
The skies are painted with unnumber'd sparks,
They are all fire and every one doth shine,
But there's but one in all doth hold his place:
So in the world; 'tis furnish'd well with men,
And men are flesh and blood, and apprehensive;
Yet in the number I do know but one
That unassailable holds on his rank,
Unshaked of motion: and that I am he,
Let me a little show it, even in this;
That I was constant Cimber should be banish'd,
And constant do remain to keep him so."

Of course, in some ways it's good to be constant like the northern star. But not in stubbornness and refusal to forgive.

2) But is that really tyrannical enough to kill him? There are probably lots of politicians who would also keep Metellus' brother banished. Are Cassius, Brutus and their co-conspirators just paranoid? Or would allowing Caeser to live also allow for less and less freedom? Were they justified in their preemptive strike?

It seems that if it weren't for Cassius' bloodthirstiness, Brutus would have definitely waited a little bit.

3) Mark Antony's reaction is strange to me. He's standing above Caesar's lifeless body, and basically says, "Now, before I get mad, let me know if you have a good reason for killing him." Is it because he trusts and admires Brutus so much, that he's sure there must be a justifiable reason? Or, maybe it fits with what I noticed while watching the movie. Maybe Mark Antony has been thinking about doing the same thing, and Brutus simply beat him to the punch.

4) After the murderers leave, Mark Antony is left to speak his soliloquy and promise to avenge Caesar's death by means of civil war.

So is Mark Antony genuine? Were my observations and suspicions unfounded? I guess I'll have to keep reading.

5) I've made a few connections between Brutus and Hamlet. Both spent time contemplating the pros and cons of committing murder and working up the courage to do it. But Brutus' contemplation was a lot more intellectual and methodical while Hamlet was just being emo. And the later scene with Caesar's ghost of course recalls the scenes with Hamlet's ghost.

But here's Mark Antony, the moment he is finally alone, promising to avenge Caesar's death. He doesn't need a ghost to tell him or a long time to be moody and broody.

Does that mean Mark Antony loved Caesar more than Hamlet loved his father? Or does it mean something else?

6) Is there significance to Brutus beginning his speech with "Romans, countrymen, and lovers" while Mark Antony says "Friends, Romans, countrymen"? Nothing comes to mind, they seem pretty close. Maybe "lovers" is a little more intimate than "friends" (although I know the definitions were more similar back in Caesar's and Shakespeare's day), and the crowd felt like Brutus was flattering and condescending while Mark Antony was describing his relationship with his fellow Romans more realistically. Maybe?

7) Brutus: "... as I slew my best lover for the
good of Rome, I have the same dagger for myself,
when it shall please my country to need my death."

Because of Brutus' modesty and patriotism, and the final lines of the play, I'm inclined to believe Brutus when he says this.

8) Here's that mob mentality again...

(after Brutus' speech)
"All: Live, Brutus! live, live!
First Citizen: Bring him with triumph home unto his house
Second Citizen: Give him a statue with his ancestors.
Third Citizen: Let him be Caesar.
Fourth Citizen: Caesar's better parts
Shall be crown'd in Brutus.
First Citizen: We'll bring him to his house
With shouts and clamours."

(and, after Mark Antony's speech)
"First Citizen: Methinks there is much reason in his sayings.
Second Citizen: If thou consider rightly of the matter,
Caesar has had great wrong. 
Fourth Citizen: Mark'd ye his words? He would not take the crown;
Therefore 'tis certain he was not ambitious. 
First Citizen: If it be found so, some will dear abide it. 
Second Citizen: Poor soul! his eyes are red as fire with weeping. 
Third Citizen: There's not a nobler man in Rome than Antony."

Oh, how fickle are the masses! They seem to just believe whatever happens to be the last thing they've heard.

9) Yeah, I'm pretty sure Mark Antony is being sarcastic here. "Oh, Brutus is so honorable..." ... "I don't want to say anything, because you might gang up on Brutus and Cassius..." ... "No, I don't think I will read you Caesar's will, I shouldn't have even mentioned it in the first place..." ... "Oh, if only I was as good an orator as Brutus is..." ... "Wait, don't forget, I was going to tell you about the will..."

What a tease!

And, wait a second, with Mark Antony describing which wounds were inflicted by Cassius and which ones by Brutus ... Mark Antony wasn't even there.

Yeah, he's definitely up to something. It may not be his own ambition, just revenge against Cassius and Brutus. But either way, he's flip-flopping.

Ah, here's the confirmation:

"Mark Antony: Now let it work.
Mischief, thou art afoot,
Take thou what course thou wilt!"